Parish History

  The History of the Catholic Church in Carbon County and in what is now Jim Thorpe is intimately connected with the many waves of immigrants from Europe who chose to settle in our area. The Roman Catholics who settled in the Mauch Chunk area in the 1830s and 1840’s were mostly refugees from an Ireland that was experiencing terrible famine. At this period of time, Mauch Chunk was a considerable distance from populated areas, but families came to find agricultural employment in an area that was extremely fertile.
In those earliest days, our area was part of the Diocese of Philadelphia. This Diocese encompassed the entire state of Pennsylvania. Priests, who were actually “curcuit-riders”, were sent by Bishop of Philadelphia to the northern reaches of the Diocese. One priest, Father Patrick Lonergan, an Irish Franciscan, was known to be in our area as early as November 1796, visiting the scattered Catholic population.  The town of Milton near the New York border was the center of missionary activity in our area. As early as 1837 there is documented evidence that Father John Fitzpatrick, pastor of the Milton parish, celebrated Mass in Summit Hill and in Mauch Chunk. As the Catholic population grew, more and more priests came to minister to the Mauch Chunk Catholics-coming from the newly established parishes of Pottsville, Tamaqua and Easton.

Reverend Patrick J. Hennegan, (1848-1852), born in Nesquehoning, was ordained to the Priesthood by Most Reverend F. P. Kenrick on July 19, 1847, at St. John's Church, Philadelphia, at that time the Bishop's Pro-Cathedral. He was stationed in Tamaqua, and not much more than a year ordained, when he undertook the founding of a parish in Mauch Chunk; Father Hennegan leaves us record that he came to Mauch Chunk in November of 1848 to make plans for a parish here.. Fathering the Catholics of the town, he informed them of his purpose, and, the congregation was dedicated to St. Mary of the Immaculate Conception, for so the parish was first named, and continued, to be known as such for a number of years. -. The dogma of the Immaculate Conception was not defined until 1854.  It is difficult to determine if he ever lived in Mauch Chunk. He may have come here in 1851 or 1852. There is evidence that Mauch Chunk was a mission of Nesquehoning, and that it was there that he lived. In the Catholic Herald of 1849, it is noted that Confirmation was held in St. Patrick's of Nesquehoning and that Father Hennegan was the pastor. In the face of untold hardships, poverty, bigotry, and persecution, he established St. Mary's in Mauch Chunk in 1848, and founded St. Joseph's in Summit Hill in 1850.
How often Mass was said in the new parish of St. Mary's of the Immaculate Conception, after its establishment is not known. The principle place of worship in the early days was the house of Michael McGeady, at 130 Susquehanna Street, It was here that Mr. and Mrs. McGeady were married, as were many of the first parishioners. The sacrament of Baptism likewise was administered here. Mass was also said on occasion in the homes of John Mulhem and John Tree.
Later, as the congregation grew and could not be accommodated in a private dwelling, the Old School House was used for worship. There is no record whatsoever of the number of souls in the flock of Father Hennegan, but it is evident that with few exceptions they were all Irish.
Father Hennegan began keeping a separate set of registers for Mauch Chunk, Nesquehoning and Summit Hill, May 1, 1849. He carefully noted that record of previous administrations of the Sacraments were to be found in Tamaqua. The first entry for Mauch Chunk proper in the baptismal register under the day of June 13th lists four baptisms: Anna Dougherty, daughter of Charles Dougherty and Elizabeth Wilson, Thomas Curran, son of Christopher Curran and Catherine Swords, Emilia Armbruster, daughter of Joseph Armbruster and Mary Grispen, and Rose McGinley, daughter of Bernard McGinley and Winifred Cannon. The first marriage entry for Mauch Chunk under date of August 3rd, is the marriage of John Johnson and Helen McGonigle.
The registry for Summit Hill ends with May 25, 1850, when Summit Hill became a separate parish. At the same time, it seems that Mauch Chunk, started as a mission church, became a full fledged parish and Nesquehoning a mission of Mauch Chunk. Father Hennegan is listed in the Official Catholic Directory for 1850 as the pastor, which is evidence that it was no longer a mission.
The first parish property was the plot of ground acquired on West Broadway for the building of the Church. The lot, which was the first of the nine tracts of ground which comprise the present parish property, was bought from the L. C. & N. Co. for $690.00, "a quarter to be paid before taking possession, another quarter to be paid on receipt of the deed, and the other one half in equal annual payments, with the interest accruing". The first payment of $173.00 was made September 1, 1849. The dimensions of this first piece of ground were sixty-nine feet along Broadway, eighty-six feet nine inches in the rear on the north, seventy feet on the east side, and one hundred twenty-three feet nine inches on the west side.
The actual building of the Church did not begin until 1850, Meetings of the parishioners were held to raise money for this project so dear to the heart of every Catholic in Mauch Chunk — their own parish. The enthusiasm, zeal, and energy, with which they undertook this campaign, are evident from the number of contributors, the amounts, and the number of non-Catholics who were solicited. We find names, such as Asa Packer, Lawyer Fatzinger, and many other prominent non-Catholics in the list of contributors, which numbered in all about two hundred-ninety. The first contributor was Miss Mary O'Friel. The largest single contributor was John Tree, $40.00. All in all, however, from loans, subscriptions, collections, and so forth, a little over $1600.00 was gathered in two years, which shows the difficulty of Father Hennegaris task, and the poverty of the people.
The contract for the new Church was given to John Boyle and George Simpson. Work on the church building started in 1850, and was completed in early 1852. It was not dedicated, however, until 1853. The laying of the cornerstone took place around October 12, 1851. The inscription on the cornerstone, together with other vital information, has been obliterated by the elements. In the cornerstone was contained copies of the Boston Pilot; the Carbon Democrat (Oct. 11); and an extra edition of the same paper containing the election results; the Catholic Herald (Philadelphia), Oct. 9; The Investigator (Harrisburg), Oct. 10; Catholic Instructor (Philadelphia). There was also a dollar gold piece, a three cent coin, a six pence, and five francs.
The occasion of the cornerstone laying was not without incident, for it was stolen during the night and thrown in the Mauch Chunk Creek. The cornerstone was recovered about twelve years later by John Mulhem, at the Lower Foundry, which was opposite the site of the parochial school.
The church building was completed in the year 1852, probably in January. Nowhere can there be found an accurate description of the building, but it most likely was a combination frame and brick building, not too large, with a slate roof. It certainly was very plain, as money was lacking for any ornamentation. When it was opened, it contained the bare essentials, not even being equipped with pews, evidence of the financial problems which confronted Father Hennegan. From the various accounts still existent, it appears that the church grounds and building cost about $3,500.00 or $4,000.00.
It is obvious that Father Hennegan did the most that he could with the money on hand, but it just was not enough. The strain on him must have been terrific, considering the task of his ordinary duties of the priesthood, tending the various localities, and the almost impossible job of solving the financial problems of the young parish. Indeed, in 1852 judgments began to mount against the parish property, and a levy was threatened. Boyle and Simpson placed a mechanics' lien against the property, which was finally satisfied several years later. The outlook was dark, and it appeared that the new parish would be stripped of all its belongings. Even the payments on the mortgage were past due. On February 12, 1852, the amount owed on the Church totaled $1663.46, which "was being earnestly desired", as Father Hennegan put it.
After three and one-half years of strenuous labor, Father Hennegan was relieved of his charge in the early part of February, 1852, and transferred to Lambertville, New Jersey. The toll which these years exacted of him physically is evident from his early death. Two years later on January 24, 1854, he died certainly to be richly rewarded for his unstinting efforts to establish God's Kingdom in Mauch Chunk.
The Reverend Doctor Manahan succeeded Father Hennegan in 1852. Unfortunately very little is known of the good Doctor, not even the date of his ordination being available.
It can be deduced from his doctorate and his book, "The Triumph of the Catholic Church in the Early Ages", quite well known at the time, that he was a scholarly man. His stay in Mauch Chunk was very brief, but he made every effort to do all that he could to help the parish and its people, as is evident from what little record we have of Father Manahan.
The inherited financial problems he attacked with vigor, paying off debts and at the same time managing to make some improvements in the new church, which had not as yet been dedicated. This event took place in 1853. In endeavoring to solve the indebtedness of the parish, he organized a collecting committee. The judgments and threats of suits were mounting. Through this committee, he hoped to raise the necessary funds to rescue the parish property from the threat of the sheriff’s levy. The members of the Committee were: Barney McGee, Francis Sharkey, John McGinty, John Lynch, Condy Hegarty, James Brennan, Owen Lynch, P. Coil, Michael McGeady, John Mulhem, Daniel Maloney, J. N. Hockman, Christopher Curran, Maurice Tobin, & John Doogan. John Lynch was the chairman of the group, Barney McGee, treasurer, and Francis Sharkey, secretary. The sum of $330.00 was collected by the fall of the year, and this sum included donations from outside the parish, one contribution of $19.52 being received from Bristol.
By October of that year, things began to straighten out a bit, as some of the judgments were satisfied, and an installment paid on the bills owed to Boyle and Simpson, the chief creditors. The courage and determinations of the early priests and parishioners draws our admiration, for, despite the dark outlook, they continued to improve the church building, painting and decorating it. To give some idea of how little there was to work with, let us note some of the collections mentioned: the Christmas collection, 1852, $25.21; collection in November of 1852, $8.30; January of 1853, $1.25.

The last entry made by Dr. Manahan in the parish registers is for February 13, 1853. It must have been at this time that he left Mauch Chunk for New York to pursue his literary work. The parish was without a resident priest for about two months, until the arrival of Father Patrick Coffey in April of that year. During the interim, Father Henry P. Finnigan of Beaver Meadows, took care of the parish, saying Mass and administering the Sacraments.
The Reverend Patrick J. Coffey followed Dr. Manahan as pastor in Mauch Chunk in April of 1853. Very little is known about the background of Father Coffey to form a biographical sketch. Father Coffey is named as the first resident pastor of Mauch Chunk, renting the east end of the block on West Broadway owned by Christopher Curran. This remained the pastoral residence until Father Blacker moved to the west end of the same block.
In June of 1853, Father Coffey, together with John Tree, Bernard McGee, and Patrick Sharkey, received a grant of land from the L. C. & N. Company on the Coalport road for the parish cemetery. This plot today forms the southwest comer of the cemetery which has been enlarged to its present size by two subsequent grants.
In the summer of 1854, an epidemic of Asiatic or hog cholera struck Mauch Chunk and the surrounding region. It carried off many in its wake. It was on this occasion that the saintly Bishop John Neumann came to Mauch Chunk to assist in comforting the sick and bereaved. He made his sleeping quarters in the basement of the church that he might be easily accessible to all. His name is found in the baptismal register, having baptized Barbara Burkhart on September 2, 1854. It was devotion to his people such as this that had elevated him to be canonized a Saint.
The Reverend John Loughran, succeeded Father Coffey in November of 1854. Father Loughran was ordained by Bishop Kenrick on July 16, 1848. Very little can be written about Father Loughran-He was in poor health, and hardly suited for the difficult task he inherited. His parish was struggling to recuperate from the effects of the epidemic and financial problems continued to press. Handicapped as he was, he still spent himself to assist his people. The mortgage on the parish property and the accrued interest were paid off in 1855, after a judgment to secure payment had been granted the Lehigh Company in 1854. The committee even managed to get together a reserve fund of $484.50, which was finally exhausted in 1857. Father Loughran's failing health finally caused him to leave Mauch Chunk in June of 1856, and he died two weeks later in Philadelphia on the 24th of June.
The parish was without a pastor until August of 1856, when Father Charles McEnroe was appointed to fill the vacancy. During that interval, Father Patrick McArdle took care of the spiritual needs of the people. Father McEnroe was not in the best of health and within three years after he was appointed pastor he died in the parish.
Father McEnroe, in co-operation with his parishioners succeeded in raising sufficient sums to payoff all the outstanding debts and judgments against the parish in January of 1857. This was due to the sacrifices of the people, not prosperous times, for although the parish was growing, money was not any more plentiful. At the time the centers of population were High Street, Susquehanna Street, and Northern Liberties, but it is noted that in a collection taken up in the parish there were only 67 contributors, who gave a total of $160.00. Father McEnroe used all the available funds to dear the debt, even a sum of $146.00 which had been set aside for the purchase of a melodeon for the Church.
Father McEnroe put a confessional in the church and added other sanctuary fixtures. He also bought a cross for $11.50. In his later days in the parish, incapacitated by poor health, he was assisted by Father Scanlon of Beaver Meadows. Father McEnroe died in Mauch Chunk on May 19, 1859; resolutions of regret and appreciation of Father McEnroe's character were published by the Young Men's Literary Institute, signed by J. W. McCrea, Secretary.
Father McEnroe's successor was Reverend John P. O'Shaughnessy in 1859. Actually that is all that can be recorded concerning Father O'Shaughnessy, except the date of his death, February 17, 1862. There is absolutely no record of his pastorate in Mauch Chunk.  What happened to the records of that time is not known.
Reverend Michael J. Blacker, succeeded Father O'Shaughnessy, the seventh pastor of the Immaculate Conception parish. He came to Mauch Chunk in November of 1861.
If there is no record of Father O'Shaughnessy, the exact opposite is true of Father Michael Blacker. His devotion to the advancement of the parish is noted in the fact that, even though the Civil War was then in progress and had taken many from his parish, he went forward with plans to enlarge the Church. Prior to this the church could hardly be called complete. The church remained as he left it until it was replaced by the new church in 1908. He completed the extensive alterations of the Church and began to make arrangements for the erection of a rectory. Up to this time, the priest had been living in a rented house on West Broadway. His zeal for souls is evidenced in the parochial school which he established in the basement of the church.
Father Blacker was immediately preceded by a Father Bernard McCollum as administrator in Mauch Chunk. When Father Blacker came in November of 1861, he lost no time in undertaking the alterations of the Church. Now that the debt had been cleared, funds were available to make the church suitable to the needs of the parish. The contract for the work was given to John Fidler. A considerable addition was made to the rear of the Church, which meant a completely new sanctuary and the addition of a sacristy. A new altar, costing several hundred dollars, the work of a skilled artist in Reading, replaced the original altar, which was given to the parish in White Haven, then in its infancy. He also installed pews, and a melodeon. He did everything within reason to make the Church of the Immaculate Conception worthy of its high purpose.
Later, possibly around 1867, he added the gallery to the Church. All in all, the church contained about one hundred forty pews with the addition of the gallery. The alterations cost between $4500.00 and $5000.00.
It is from Father Blacker that we first get some general idea of the size of the parish in Mauch Chunk, exclusive of the mission in Nesquehoning. In 1864, there were approximately one hundred fifteen families in East Mauch Chunk, fifty in Northern Liberties, renowned for the number of young men who served in the Civil War, thirty in Upper Mauch Chunk, forty in Old Tunnel (Hacklebemie), eight in New Pockets (Coalport), forty on High Street, fifteen on Race Street. Oddly enough, the two' streets not mentioned are Broadway and Susquehanna Streets. Making an allowance for these two, we conjecture that there were between three hundred fifty and four hundred families in the parish.
In 1865, Father Blacker undertook the project of a parochial school. The school room was the basement of the Church, and the schoolmasters were Ryan and Loughran, who boarded with Mrs. Mulhem. William Kehoe was placed in charge of the finances of the new school. The number of children enrolled in the first year was one hundred sixty, from eighty-two families. The school was supported by a special collection and a small tuition charge, which was determined to a great extent by the financial condition of the family. The school continued for several years, even after Father Blackens departure, when circumstances made it necessary to discontinue it. It remained for Father Bunce to renew this important adjunct to the parish.
Father Blacker left Mauch Chunk at the beginning of June, 1868 and was succeeded by Reverend Hugh Garvey. Poor health plagued him during his entire stay in Mauch Chunk, and it was necessary for him to have help on many occasions. In April of 1869, he resigned the rectoryship in Mauch Chunk.
Reverend Peter C. McEnroe, took the place of the ailing Father Garvey in April of 1869. He came to Mauch Chunk a young priest not yet ordained two years. While Father McEnroe was pastor, the plot of ground on which the present church stands was donated to the parish by the L. C. & N. Company, on September 21, 1869, the deed for which was executed on May 7, 1870. The negotiations were carried on between Patrick Sharkey and John Leisenring, who handled the Lehigh interests in this locality.
In 1870, Father McEnroe undertook to complete the project begun by Father Blacker, the erection of a rectory. The contract for the house was given to John Fidler and Company. The rectory was contracted on July 19, 1870, for the sum of $3400.00. The lot of ground for the rectory on the west side of the old Church had been bought in November of 1865, from Jacob Salkeld for $300.00. The house was completed in October of 1870, and was paid in full by November 5th. However, the cost went slightly beyond the contract price. Due to construction changes, the building cost $3510.00 and with furnishings, and so forth, it totaled $3834.00. Father McEnroe was the first to hire help to take care of the church and rectory.
In October of 1873, a new organ was bought for $300.00 to replace the old melodeon. New gas pipes and fixtures were placed in the church, and the building plastered, all of which greatly enhanced its appearance. The cemetery was enlarged in 1873, by a grant of land from the L. C. & N. Company, to a little more than half its present size. Father McEnroe then placed a fence around the cemetery. Father McEnroe's accounts closed My 16, 1875, at which time he was succeeded by Father Bunce.
Reverend Michael A. Bunce was the first pastor of the Immaculate Conception to remain any great length of time. He, in fact, served the people of Mauch Chunk for a greater period than any of his predecessors, his pastorate covering a span of 26 years. Father Bunce came to this country at 16 years of age. As a young priest three years ordained, he was selected to be the pastor of the Immaculate Conception. At that time, Mass was said every other Sunday in Nesquehoning, and every Sunday in Mauch Chunk, there being two Masses in Mauch Chunk on alternate Sundays. Occasionally, Father Bunce went to Hauto to offer the Holy Sacrifice, always in a private dwelling, for the families living there. In 1883, he bought ground for the new church in Nesquehoning, the cornerstone for which was laid September 4, 1887, the day of the dedication of the parochial school in Mauch Chunk. This church, dedicated to the Sacred Heart, was built at a cost of $15,000.00, and was paid for, all but a few hundred dollars, when Father Morris became the pastor a few years later. The old church of St. Patrick was torn down.
The outstanding memorial to Father Bunce was our parochial school and convent. This project was foremost in his mind for the spiritual development of his parish, and in 1884, he took the first step to make the parish school a reality. In the summer of that year, he applied to the Sisters Servants of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, at West Chester, for sisters to teach in his school. August 19th, Sisters Ambrose and Teresa arrived in Mauch Chunk in answer to Father Bunce's request. They lived with Mrs. Sharkey, on Susquehanna Street, until a house as a temporary convent was rented of Mr. Tobias, at 96 1/2 West Broadway.
The basement of the Church was fitted out for school purposes, being partitioned to make three class rooms. The school formally reopened the third week September, 1884, with an enrollment of 140 pupils. The number increased so rapidly, that it was necessary to close the school for ten days, while an additional class room was prepared in the rectory. Sisters Celestine and Mechtilda had joined Mother Ambrose and Sister Teresa. Mother Ambrose conducted classes for the older children in the rectory, and Sisters Teresa, Celestine, and Mechtilda taught in the church basement. Sister Josephine, a later arrival, was placed in charge of music, and gave lessons at the home of John J. McGinley, on West Broadway. The Sisters continued to reside at 96 ½ Broadway for three years, when circumstances made it necessary for them to leave there. Bernard Boyle, the father of Michael Boyle and Sister M. Ambrosine, gave them the use of his home, which they gratefully accepted.
The next task was the raising of a school and convent. The ground was purchased for this purpose by Dominick McFadden in the summer and early fall of 1884 for $1800.00. The construction of the school and convent started in 1885, and it was completed in May of 1886 or 1887. There is record of the first school entertainment being held in June of 1887 with the note that the school had been completed the previous May, and whether this means May 1886 or 1887 is not clear. However, the school was formally dedicated on the 4th of September, 1887. The Sisters moved into the new convent probably in the year 1887. A two-year high school course appears to have been added around 1889, with first class being graduated in 1890 with five members.
Not satisfied with the work he had accomplished in building the school and convent, he now began making plans to replace the old church with a new structure, He organized the Parish Improvement Fund, which consisted of a number of men of the parish making weekly collections to obtain sufficient funds to start the building program. Father Bunce had begun the excavation for the new church when his charge in Mauch Chunk was terminated. Possibly thinking the strain of this new undertaking too much for his strength, Archbishop Ryan transferred Father Bunce to St. Mark's in Bristol upon the death of Father Hugh Garvey, a predecessor in Mauch Chunk, on September 6, 1901.  Obedient to the will of his superior, Father Bunce left Mauch Chunk reluctantly.
Reverend Charles Norris came in 1901 from the Sacred Heart Parish in Nesquehoning to succeed Father Bunce. God, in His inscrutable wisdom, saw fit to call Father Norris to Himself after a short pastorate. Father Norris' death came very suddenly. He suffered a stroke during Sunday Mass from which he never recovered, Ten days later, September 16, 1903 he died. Reverend Bernard McKenna acted as administrator during Father Norris’ illness and until the appointment of Father Larkin in October of 1903. Reverend Thomas J. Larkin was appointed to succeed Father Norris in October of 1903.
Ground was broken by Father Larkin for the new church after Mass on April 23, 1906. Owen McGlynn, of Wilkes-Barre, was chosen as the architect, and the contract for the building was given to Charles Neast and Company, Mauch Chunk, for $48,125.00. Then began the task of raising the money for the structure which was to cost in its entirety more than a hundred thousand dollars. It was decided that each parishioner would subscribe according to his means, with pledges ranging from $25.00 upward. Within three months the total subscribed was $20,000.00. The first money actually given to the church for the new building was $6,000.00 in gold, the gift of Mrs. Boylan, of Packerton. The remainder was partly raised by collections which Father Larkin took at the following parishes: Holy Infancy, Bethlehem; St. Agatha's, Philadelphia; St. Canicus', Mahony City; where Father Peter McEnroe was pastor; St. John's, Manayunk; also included were the proceeds from the various social functions in the parish, donations from the societies such as the T.A.B. for $1250.00. The entire structure was paid for with only a $15,000.00 mortgage being taken secured August 23, 1908.
The cornerstone was laid by Arch-Bishop Ryan on June 24, 1906, and the following inscription placed on it: The comer Stone of this Church, dedicated to Almighty God, in honor of Our Lady Mary, conceived without sin, was blessed and laid by Most Reverend P. J. Ryan, D.D., Arch-Bishop of Philadelphia, Pius X Supreme Pontiff, happily reigning; Theodore Roosevelt being President of the United States of America; Samuel W. Pennypacker, Governor of the State of Pennsylvania; Jonas Sondheim, Chief Burgess of Mauch Chunk; Owen McGlynn, Architect; Charles Neast & Company, Builders: Reverend T. J. Larkin, Rector of this parish; on the 24th day of June A.D., 1906, the year of American Independence, 130.
The church was built in Romanesque style with the best of materials, fixtures, and furnishings. The stone was Mt. Airy (N.C.) granite trimmed with Indiana limestone. Mayer & Company of Munich, supplied the windows; the altars of Carrara marble were erected by Peter Theis & Sons, N.Y.; Sibbel, of New York, did the stations, of the same marble as the altars. At its completion, the church stood as an accomplishment of which the pastor and people could be justly proud. The dedication of the church took place on Sunday, October 4, 1908, with Bishop Prendergast presiding. The Reverend James C. McLoughlin was the celebrant of the solemn Mass on this momentous occasion. While paying off the debt, Father Larkin did not neglect the rest of the parish. He continued making improvements in the school, and obtained more land from the L.C. & Company in 1909, to bring the cemetery to its present size. Walter McGinley erected the iron fence around the present cemetery. In 1914, the lot on the lower side of the school was purchased from Dominick McFadden for $800.00, later to become the site of the high school. The old Church was converted into a parish hall, and used as such until razed around 1925.
Father Larkin submitted a plan for building a parochial four-year high school to supplant the two-year course then in effect. Impressed with the importance of the plan, the authorities gave Father Larkin permission to proceed, if he thought his health would permit-since he suffered a slight stroke previously. The contract for the school was given to Charles Neast & Company, for $40,318.00. Work was started in 1924. The men of the parish dug the foundation, blasting through solid rock much of the way, and saving the parish a considerable sum of money. The school was completed in 1925, but Father Larkin, unfortunately did not live to see it complete its first year. The first class graduated in 1927, and at that time it became an accredited first class high school, being approved by the Department of Education, Harrisburg.
In December, 1925, Father Larkin suffered a stroke from which he never recovered. Father Larkin's body was laid to rest in the front of the Church, which he had built, according to his last wish. Reverend Joseph A, Dougherty briefly succeeded Father Larkin in 1926. However, his superiors saw fit to transfer Father Dougherty to Holy Souls Parish, Philadelphia.
Father Dougherty left Mauch Chunk May 11, 1927. Reverend John Fealy, after eleven years in the priesthood, came to Mauch Chunk on May 11, 1927. To him, for the parish, was donated the plot of ground on the West side of the church. This donation was made by John T. McGinley for the erection of a new rectory, and the foundation was already started when Father Fealy was transferred to St. Margaret's in Reading. This was in the last week of February, 1931 and the parish was shocked to hear of his death on November 26 of that same year.
Reverend William J. McShain succeeded Father Fealy in 1931. During Father McShain's pastorate, the parish hall and grounds adjoining on the south side of West Broadway opposite the school had been acquired. This was purchased in 1940 for $3,000.00 and was paid for from the Lenten mite box contributions, and it since had been the scene of many parish gatherings and social functions. The old town reservoir, located on the parish grounds to the rear of the rectory, was given to .the parish by the Water Company.
Following Father McShain's pastorate, Reverend James F. Doolin was assigned as pastor in 1951. He remained pastor for 18 years and did many things to care for the general operation of the parish. The repainting of the church took place and the protective glass over the stain glass windows of the church was added. Under his pastorate in 1964, the Mauch Chunk Catholic High School of the parish closed its doors as it consolidated with the new Diocesan High School named Marian Catholic in Hometown, Pa.
Succeeding Father Doolin was Reverend Leo F. Kilpatrick in 1969. Father Kilpatrick had moved into a trailer because of rectory deterioration. His tenure in the parish was brief, remaining approximately two and a half years, leaving the parish in 1971.
Succeeding Father Kilpatrick in 1971 was Reverend Joseph Dooley who became the 1st Monsignor of the parish. It was under his administration that many changes had taken place in the parish. Msgr. Dooley was an excellent administrator under whom the parish school had ceased operation in 1982 because of building deterioration, enrollment and religious staff decline. The school would be finally raised later in June of 1991. St. Joseph School then became in Jim Thorpe the regional school where the catholic school students of the parish had transferred to continue their Catholic Grade School Education. It also was Msgr. Dooley who bought land in Lake Harmony and constructed a church as a chapel of the parish.
From the earliest days of the use of Lake Harmony as a resort, the Church had been there providing worship opportunities for the people. Mass was first celebrated in Durnin's Hotel on Lake Harmony in 1926 (the present Lake Harmony Lodge). Frank Durnin was the first Altar Boy to serve Mass at Lake Harmony. Father John A. McGinnis, the Curate at Immaculate Conception, was the celebrant of the Masses and he kept the altar, vestments, and Mass supplies at Durnin’s Inn.
At various times the Pastors of Immaculate Conception parish in Jim Thorpe celebrated Mass in summer homes and halls of the area. For a time Mass was celebrated at the Allentown Club House on Lake Drive and then at George Twinings's Hall which was behind the present Post Office in Lake Harmony. Beginning in 1931 and continuing for many seasons, Father William A. McShain and the other Mauch Chunk priests celebrated Sunday Mass at Twinings.
As time progressed, the celebration of Mass was moved to the Lake Harmony Fire House and then to Split Rock Lodge where Mass was celebrated on a regular basis until 1971.
In 1971 a great fire consumed Split Rock Lodge. When the new Lodge was opened, Monsignor Joseph Dooley, Pastor of Immaculate Conception, resumed Mass in the "Upper Room" of the facility on January 15, 1972. Monsignor Dooley continued to celebrate Mass each Sunday at Split Rock until November 1979. When the "Upper Room" of the Lodge was not available for use, Msgr. Dooley celebrated Mass outdoors on the portable (ironing board) altar which he transported on his motorcycle from Jim Thorpe.
Through the efforts of Sam Milazzo and Joseph Dougherty, permission was obtained to celebrate Mass at Lake Harmony Fire House, once the Kidder Township Offices and Police Department moved into their new facilities. The first Mass at the Fire House was celebrated on the Feast of Christ the King, November 25, 1979.
As the area was developing and the crowds of people were significantly increasing, it became obvious that a permanent House of Worship was needed. On June 29, 1981 a five acre parcel of property was purchased by our Parish opposite Big Boulder Lake. Meetings began shortly thereafter with the architectural firm of Leung, Hemmler, Camayd of Scranton to formulate plans for a new church which would be modeled on Austrian Alpine architecture.
Msgr. Dooley was concerned that the new Church blend in with the countryside and reflect the recreational nature of the area, The Bell Tower and Clock was constructed to beckon skiers from the slopes for Mass. The Loggia and Courtyard were constructed as gathering places for people.
On December 7, 1982 Monsignor Dooley met with Bishop Joseph McShea to discuss the plans for the new church. It was at that time that Bishop McShea presented the Parish with the marvelous painting of "Saint Peter the Fisherman" by the nationally renown Muralist Dana Van Horn. Mr. Van Horn had just completed a set of murals in the Allentown Cathedral and had given "Saint Peter the Fisherman" to Bishop McShea as a gift. The decision was made then to name the new church "Saint Peter the Fisherman".
It was on June 28, 1982 that the ground was broken for the new church. The General Contractor was George G. Schmidt Company of Palmerton. It was a year and one week later on July 4, 1983 that the first Mass was celebrated in Saint Peter the Fisherman Church.
Monsignor Dooley commissioned the Atelier Denys Heppell, a Canadian artist, to do the statue of Saint Peter the Fisherman that graces the courtyard as well as the wood carving of the Last Supper which is now on the front of the main altar. (In 1988 a new altar had been dedicated in honor of Monsignor Dooley for all his hard work and planning).
Shortly after its completion, word was received from the American Institute of Architects that St. Peter the Fisherman Church was recognized by the Interfaith Forum on Religion, Art and Architecture with a citation for excellence in religious design as one of the five finest churches built in America in 1983. Monsignor Dooley and Architect David Hemmler were presented with an award in New York City in September 1984.
Monsignor Dooley also began the construction of a new rectory adjacent to the Immaculate Conception Church in Jim Thorpe. He had lived in a trailer as did Father Kilpatrick. However, the accommodations were inappropriate for safety, office and living space. Msgr. Dooley began construction of a new rectory in 1972 and it presently stands as the current rectory. Msgr. Dooley also was responsible for the engineering marvel of an extensive wall and drainage system behind the existing church, rectory, and church parking lot. The plans were drawn up by Zenith engineers of Philadelphia and the project completed. In addition, Msgr. Dooley was noted for his wit and humor in his church bulletins. He was transferred in 1984 to St. Margaret's in Reading.
Succeeding Msgr. Dooley in 1984 was Reverend Robert Quinn under whom the chapel of St. Peter the Fisherman became officially dedicated on September 7, 1986 with the Most Revered Thomas J. Welsh, J.C.D., Bishop of Allentown being present for the dedication. Father Quinn was then succeeded in December of 1986 by Reverend John G. Chizmar.
Due to continued population, St. Peter the Fisherman became a parish unto itself in the Spring of 1989 with Rev. John A. Auchter named as its first pastor. The parish was ranked as the Diocese's 153rd Parish.
In August 2008, Msgr. Chizmar was transferred to St. Peter the Fisherman, Lake Harmony and Reverend James J. Ward was assigned to Immaculate Conception.
 In recording the history of the parish, time and space has not permitted us to dwell on all the efforts and personalities of the pastors and all the assistant pastors who devoted themselves unsparingly to the spiritual needs of the parish, the care of the sick, the comforting of the afflicted, instructing converts, and counseling anyone in need. In temporal matters they had all given their best to promote the material as well as the spiritual welfare of the parish. As an act of charity and gratitude, remember them in your prayers that God will grant those who are departed eternal peace and reward; and, to those still living, abundant grace and blessings. We also recognize the many vocations to the priesthood and convents that came from our parish over the years. Many of which we know, and others we have been unable to identify successfully throughout different periods of our history. Records become lost or damaged. Thus, in order not to offend anyone by mentioning some and unable to mention others, it is best to say that we are proud of them all and their families who help foster and nurture the vocation sent to them and the church.

  • Construction on the current building was begun in 1906 and completed in 1908
  • The Architect was Own McGlynn of Wilkes-Barre, Pa
  • The Contractor was Charles Neast and Company of Mauch Chunk.
  • The Cost of Construction was $48,125.00
  • The style of architecture is Irish Romanesque
  • Exterior Construction is of Mt. Airy (N.C) Granite & Indian Limestone
  • Painting of the Immaculate Conception by George Kinkelin
  • The stained glass windows were done by Mayer and Company of Munich.
  • All marble work (altars, statues, Baptismal Font) are of Carrara Marble by Peter Theis and Sons of New York
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